L-R: 2016 competitor Stephen Blant presents his dishes to the judging panel – Head Judge John McFadden, Sam Burke and Karen Doyle.

Finalists for the Australian Professional Chef of the Year contest, to be held at Foodservice Australia trade show 28–30 May, have been selected from more than 200 applicants, with 24 making the cut. Two wild card entrants will also participate in the competition.  

“We received an unprecedented number of entries this year, which demonstrates how this title has become one of the most sought-after in the Australian culinary landscape,” said competition director Gary Farrell. “And with a share of $10,000 cash up for grabs, it is also one of Australia’s richest competitions.”

The majority of finalists are local chefs from Melbourne, however some are travelling from Sydney, regional NSW and Victoria, as well as Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania.

The finalists will compete in a live cook-off at the Royal Exhibition Centre. The winner of each heat will go on to compete in a semi-final, which also includes one of two wild card entrants – Chef of the Year 2016 Matt Weller, and Chris Wade from Steak Ministry. The top two chefs from each semi will go on to compete in the Grand Final on Tuesday 30 May.

“This is a live event with spectators watching from stadium-style seating, the pressure will really be on,” said Farrel. “But these chefs are all up for it. I can’t wait to see what they will produce.”

Executive chef John McFadden will lead a small team of experienced judges – Le Cordon Bleu’s Karen Doyle, Glenn Flood from Australian Leisure & Hospitality Group (ALH) and Sam Burke from Meat & Livestock Australia.

The finalists are:

  • Leslie Austen – head chef, The Shamrock Hotel, Numurkah (Vic)
  • Andrew Ballard – chef de cuisine, Simmer Culinary, Melbourne (Vic)
  • Kim Bamborough – head chef, Coutts Commercial Tavern, Ayr (Qld)
  • Simon Bold – head chef, Drift Café & Restaurant, Devonport (Tas)
  • Leslie Chan – consultant chef, Comcater, Melbourne (Vic)
  • Michael Cole – chef, Georgie Bass, Flinders (Vic)
  • Chloe Donaldson – senior chef de partie, Stokehouse, St Kilda (Vic)
  • Craig Dowling – chef de cuisine, RACV Club, Melbourne (Vic)
  • Justin Garrison – head chef, The Pantry, Brighton (Vic)
  • Daniel Giraldo – head chef, Maha, Melbourne (Vic)
  • Michael Greenlaw – executive chef, The Westin Melbourne (Vic)
  • Rosie Griffiths – executive chef, Margaret River Hospitality Group (WA)
  • Benjamin Hildred – sous chef, Coda, Melbourne (Vic)
  • Tyrone Hunt – head chef, The Atrium, Cairns (Qld)
  • Thomas Jack – head chef, Coast Restaurant & Bar, Hervey Bay (Qld)
  • Matthew Lee – head chef, Cutty Sark Bar & Restaurant, Brisbane (Qld)
  • Naomi Lowry – head chef, Popolo, Rushcutters Bay (NSW)
  • Victoria May – sous chef, Winey Cow, Frankston (Vic)
  • Nathan Mitchell – chef owner, Woodhouse Café, Geelong (Vic)
  • Rebecca Murphy – head chef, The Avoca Hotel, Avoca (Vic)
  • Brian Perera – head chef, The Commercial Hotel, Dubbo (NSW)
  • Nicola Roberti – head chef, Caffe e Cuccina, South Yarra (Vic)
  • Matteo Toffano – chef de cuisine, Grossi Florentino, Melbourne (Vic)
  • Kannanagara Wijekoon​ – sous chef, Hobarts by Leslie Taylor, New Lambton (NSW)

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